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By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The PREVIEW
This Saturday, Sept. 28, marks the fifth anniversary of the Devil Mountain Ultra. In the early hours of the morning over 200 trail runners will be toeing the line with “One Hell of a Run” ahead of them.
An ultra distance race is defined as anything longer than a marathon (26.2 miles) and most ultras are run on trails, traversing the most beautiful parts of our national forests and remote wilderness, taking runners on rocky single track and over craggy mountain passes.
The Devil Mountain Ultra has two distances to choose from — a 50 kilometer or 50 mile route, and neither are for the fainthearted, the untrained or the inexperienced. Which is why race organizers GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) took painstaking care to select an original and memorable race memento for their runners, and came up with the Devil Mountain Tuke.
Mike Le Roux, race director, explained, “To finish a trail run of 50 kilometers or 50 miles across terrain found on the Devil Mountain course takes guts, determination and true grit. These runners will be out there all day long, relentlessly moving towards the finish line. Morgan (Murri) and I have raced dozens of ultras between us and we know the sacrifice and the pain personally. Which is why we felt that this race memento needed to be special.
“We have traditionally given out a race T-shirt, which is great, but I have so many hundreds of racing Tees now that my mother has made them into a bedroom quilt for me! We wanted to give our runners something that is original, practical and very cool. Last year we went to an outdoor expo to promote the GECKO events and we came across a Canadian company that make world class running gear. They had a quality, lightweight beanie, which they call a ‘Tuke’ that could be custom printed. We knew instantly that it was perfect for our fall races. The weather is just starting to cool down and for those runners still traipsing through the remote trails at night it’s the perfect head gear.”
The Devil Mountain Tuke is just another example of the detail and thought that goes into planning each event and each runner’s experience. Added Murri, GECKO founder and experienced ultra runner, “For me, the races I have enjoyed the most are the ones where there was a camaraderie amongst the competitors. Yes, you’re competing athletes but ultimately in an ultra (distance race) it’s all of you together against the elements and the terrain. You’re on your own journey but you share the ups and downs with your fellow runners out on the course, and afterwards.”
This is also why the Devil Mountain Ultra is as renowned for its bonfire and s’mores, pancake breakfast awards party and adobe Devil’s pitchfork finisher medals as it is for its challenging route.
“For GECKO,” said Murri, “it’s about creating events that we would want to enter ourselves, where there’s an opportunity to meet like-minded people from all over the country and enjoy a shared passion of being outdoors and on the trails.”
For those of us who aren’t quite up for a five- to 16-hour trail run, GECKO has added another, much more achievable race on the same day. The Demons of Dust 5k, 10k and half marathon will start a couple hours later on Sept. 28 and run the flatter trails in the scenic Turkey Springs area.
“I would encourage everyone to enter the 5k and walk, hike, jog or run the distance,” said Murri. “We don’t mind how long it takes as we’re out there waiting for ultra runners anyway. The 10k route is a great one for those transitioning from road to trail running or a first time trail runner. The trails are in great condition after a bit of rain these part few weeks and the scenery is spectacular. We called it Demons of Dust for a reason but actually the trails are well packed down at the moment. GECKO is focused on getting teenagers outside but we know that if it starts when you’re a child it helps create good habits, and if a parent is getting outside then they are a good role model for their kids. So, essentially, we want everyone to get outside. We would love to see a crowd of Pagosa Springs locals down at the race start and being part of this ultra experience.”
The Devil Mountain Ultra begins at 6:30 a.m. and Demons of Dust 5k, 10k and 21k start at 8:30. The start/finish area is at the corner of Turkey Springs and East Monument roads.
To register for any of the five distances go to joingecko.org/devilmountain. Registration is open on race day until 8:15 a.m.
To be part of the action — as a spectator, volunteer or sponsor — contact race director Mike Le Roux (970) 398-0612 or email@example.com,g or Morgan Murri at (303) 475-6053 or firstname.lastname@example.org.